Monday, December 20, 2010

X-Files--"Aubrey"

I am a sucker for crime stories in which a decades old case is suddenly solved, particularly from the era of the ‘80’s or ‘90’s when such an unsolved case can involve detective noir of the ‘30’s and ‘40’s. Such is the case with “Aubrey.” It has a sketchy paranormal touch with the concept of genetic memory, but is otherwise a decent story.

One point--they do try a little too hard to position the original crimes firmly in the World War IiI by connecting a rape at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York with a serial killings in some Podunk town in Missouri. I would think that is a stretch, but it honestly reminded me of DC Comics’ revival of the Wesley Dodd Sandman around about the time of “Aubrey.” I am not claiming any plagiarism. It is that both stories took place partially at the World’s Fair and possessed a spooky, ethereal quality. I am connecting them fondly in my mind.

The episode takes place in 1995 and centers around Detective BJ Morrow. She begins having flashbacks to the murder of an FBI agent who was on the trail of a serial killer when the killer caught up with him instead. She travels right to the spot in the middle of a barren field where his body has been buried for fifty years. Mulder takes an interest in the case because of her apparent psychic episode.

There is more to his interest than that. The slain FBI agent was an early advocate of using psychology to catch criminals. Mulder, who is an FBI profiler, admires the guy as a pioneer in the field. Perhaps that is what prompts Mulder and Scully to investigate the corpse the traditional way while paying only marginal attention to Morrow’s psychic episode. She keeps suffering them. Each time, she appears to slide further into madness.

Morrow had been investigating a rash of murders similar to the ones occurring fifty years ago. A now elderly man, who has spent years in prison due to a rape conviction, was a suspect in 1945 and is one now. Ironic, considering the plot of the previous episode involved the elderly being rejuvenated and committing crimes with their newfound strength.

The twist is, while the old man was the serial killer in 1995, he is not the culprit now. It is morrow, who is his granddaughter by way of rasping a woman at the World’s Fair. He passed on a genetic desire to commit murder that morrow has been acting on without memory. She plays out her grandfather’s killing spree by attacking her grandmother and eventually her grandfather himself, who dies by her hand. In the end, she is instutionalized with the note she is pregnant. By her detective partner, who plans to adopt the child. A future serial killer, no doubt.

The babydaddy is played by Terry O’Quinn. It is the first of three appearances he will make. Two will be on the series itself. One will be in X-Files: Fight the Future. he will play a different role each time. O’Quinn will also become a semi-regular on the kinda sortas spin off Millennium. he is best known as John Locke on Lost.

I have already mentioned the episode reminds me of a some particularly good comics I read once upon a time, but there are a couple other high points. One, the story is incredibly gruesome in its display of mutilations, including morrow slicing up herself. It is a key plot point because the main question the story asks is if certain people are born sadistic killers or do they become them. With genetic memory, the answer appears to be the former. The second high point is how well Deborah Strang plays Morrow’s slow morph into her grandfather. Much of the change is physical. She actually looks more demented as she lets go of her real self. She creates a terrifying character.

I am not a psychologist, but I find genetic memory awfully implausible. It is not like a younger family member repeating behavior he has witnessed another family member engage in, such as an abused child growing up to abuse his child as well. Genetic memory skips generations so one will act as a distant relative one may never even knew existed acts. That is tough to swallow, even for this show. I did, however, enjoy the philosophical question of whether evil is born or made. It was not explored but, nor in terms of the Christian worldview, but it was interesting nevertheless.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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